Make Better, Faster Decisions

Make Better, Faster Decisions

When a new client comes to me for help growing the practice, there is often confusion and frustration at the overwhelming inability to get things done. “Where do I start,” and, “How will I find the time to get everything implemented,” are the most popular questions for doctors staring at the work required to double, triple or even quadruple their annual revenue and net income.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Erik Larson reports that the average manager makes 3 billion decisions each year. No wonder you’re tired when you come home. Here’s the kicker: almost all of the 3 billion decisions could have been made better and quicker.

If you boil it down to the basics, your decisions are the most powerful tool you have to get stuff done. It’s why so many of my private clients walk out of a training day with me feeling energized and refreshed. They’re tired of setting goals and plotting a strategic vision day with the entire team of employees. They simply want permission and guidance in making big decisions. Like my father always reminded me about my mother and her incredible ability to get everything done that she decides to do, once you’ve made the decision to do something, you almost always do it.

When you set goals, be aware that you’re not even half way home yet. You must make a decision on the first step towards that goal. For example, you can say you want to grow the number of visitors to your website and start welcoming more new patients to your practice on-line. That’s a great goal. But until you make the decision to pick up the phone and call someone who can help you get that done, your goals are simply wishful thinking.

Based on the results from studying tens of thousands of decision makers, Larson reports the best tool to support your decision making is this:

  1.  Write down the areas of the company that will be impacted by the decision.
  2. Write down at least 3 realistic alternatives. Expand your choices.
  3. Write down what information you’re missing. Don’t get distracted by what you know.
  4. Write down the impact your decision will have one year from now.
  5. Run your ideas by a few team leaders but not too many. This reduces bias.
  6. Write down your decision and who on the team supports it.
  7. Schedule a follow-up in 30-60 days on your calendar. Learning opportunities abound.

Larson found that the leaders who followed this formula were able to save 10 hours of discussion, make the decision 10 days faster and improve outcomes by 20%. Not bad. I would add that it is important in step #1 to look at how things are currently done and why you want to make any changes. Then in steps 4-7 be sure to assign responsibilities and a deadline for action.

Even a half-hearted attempt at this formula, when considering the impact on 3 billion decisions per year, will significantly improve your ability to make better decisions and to make them faster than you do now.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.